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CAR — The Connected Action RoadmapCARdiagramMultiColor-whitebkgrd-432px

The Connected Action Roadmap is a systems-based process that accelerates student learning and addresses learning gaps through the collaborative work of PLCs. Using guided conversations to unpack standards into clear learning objectives and cluster these objectives into units of study, educators use the CAR framework to challenge common assumptions and engage in deeper conversations around curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

The goal of this collaboration is to develop a viable curriculum that aligns standards, student learning objectives, instructional design, and assessments.

To learn more about the Connected Action Roadmap contact Donna McInerney at 609-860-1200 or e-mail at dmcinerney@njpsa.org.

Why Choose CAR?

Over the past ten years, more than 75 school districts and 200 schools in New Jersey have incorporated the CAR process into their practice. Here is what some of the educational leaders in those districts had to say about its success in improving collaboration and communication, strengthening teaching and learning, and increasing student achievement.

CAR was the answer to several school and district needs to improve teaching and learning through: job-embedded professional learning for staff in unpacking and understanding standards, standards-based and aligned instruction, equity for learners across classrooms, a culture for collaborative instructional improvement, and more effective use of PLC time. Underlying all of this is the current pressing need to address the opportunity gap and improve outcomes for underserved populations.
– Jeannine Lanphear, Supervisor of Math and Science, North Brunswick Public Schools

It is true that in today’s current educational reality, teachers and administrators feel overwhelmed and inundated with change. It is because of this fact that professional dialogue is critical. A positive culture of collaboration is more essential now than ever. Unfortunately, however, unstructured “dialogue” or traditional meeting formats often do not lead to educational gains. The Connected Action Roadmap changes the conversation and focuses teachers on ways in which to keep the emphasis at all times on students and student achievement while removing the external barriers that often distract from personal and professional growth and development.
– Kristin O’Neil, Superintendent, Lindenwold School District

Our staff was very congenial before CAR, but not necessarily collegial. CAR changes that. After more than four years with CAR, our staff has meaningful PLCs at least once a week, where we discuss student learning, assessment data, and instructional practices. These conversations spill over into our lunchtime chitchat, our hallway check-ins, and our parking lot catch-ups.
– Alicia Carney, Teacher Leader, Englewood Public Schools

Empowering our teams through meaningful conversations that lead to positive change is my leadership goal. The CAR framework has provided the leverage we needed to move forward as a school community, building a collaborative environment in which shared leadership drives our decisions. This shared effort has fostered a positive school climate that has productively engaged students and successfully reduced chronic absenteeism.
– Jennifer Marinello, Principal, Hamilton Township Public Schools

Although I recognized the importance of teacher leadership, school culture, and shared values, I believed that these were often perceived as nebulous and abstract in nature. The day-to-day work of CAR – standards-based instructional units, high-quality assessments, data-driven conversations, and instructional decision-making – translated these abstract components into real-world tools for teachers. By using these as a vehicle, modeling and encouraging teacher leadership and changes in the culture, the positive momentum occurred organically. That in turn, has given us a much better chance of having this school improvement process institutionalized.
– Anthony Petruzzelli, Retired Superintendent, Westampton Public School District

To learn how you can bring this process for school improvement to your school or district, contact Donna McInerney at dmcinerney@njpsa.org or 609-860-1200.

Statement of Vision and Commitment

Connected Action Roadmap: A Systems Approach to Strengthening Teaching, Leading, and Learning

The New Jersey Department of Education, in collaboration with the major New Jersey educational organizations, seeks to ensure equitable access to high quality education and post-secondary success for all students. We value a strategic and collaborative approach that connects standards-based curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional learning in a school culture that promotes an ongoing process of reflection on and growth in student learning. We commit to strengthening teaching, leading, and learning by supporting districts to:

  • develop a viable standards-based curriculum that directly informs classroom instruction and assessment;
  • create a comprehensive assessment system that includes ongoing formative and summative assessments resulting in data that informs practice and drives student learning;
  • promote a shared understanding of effective teaching, leading, and learning that informs job-embedded professional learning;
  • operate as professional learning communities characterized by strong collaboration, shared leadership with a focus on curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and
  • foster a climate for student and adult learning marked by mutual respect, shared leadership, and high expectations for every student.

We believe that a comprehensive statewide commitment to these principles will continue New Jersey’s standing as a national leader in educational practice.

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Get the CAR Book & Join the Book Club!


By Patricia Wright, NJPSA Executive Director Emerita

In addition to purchasing the book at a discounted rate, the author, Pat Wright, hosts a book club where participants read a chapter a month and attend a free one-hour Zoom meeting to disuss it with other educational leaders. Please see the Book Club Invitation flyer for more info.

A free book club can also be offered to school/district teams interested in examining practices in a new light.

Related Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What makes the Connected Action Roadmap different from other school improvement programs I have tried in the past?

A. The Connected Action Roadmap is not a program or an initiative or a step-by-step set of instructions to follow promising amazing results like an infomercial. Rather, CAR is a process, a framework that can be applied at any school in many different ways. We have learned that relying on programs can be ineffective and leads to initiative fatigue, as schools search for new programs every year to comply with new mandates. CAR is a sustainable practice that can continue to evolve.

Q. How do you know that this process works?

A. Over the past three years, more than 30 schools in New Jersey have been taking part in a pilot program to use the Connected Action Roadmap and report on its success. Results have been extremely positive and encouraging.

Q. What is the expected outcome?

A. The ultimate outcome is improved student learning and achievement. Other outcomes include improved climate and culture, collaborative teamwork, and better leadership capacity.

Q. What is the CAR metaphor all about?

A. The metaphor is merely an easy- to-remember way to think about the process of the journey to student learning. Teachers and principals are drivers; professional learning communities are reliable vehicles; a viable curriculum is your map or GPS; school climate and culture is the terrain of the road; and formative and summative assessments are the directional signs and guideposts that help to keep you on track.

Q. What is the first step in the process?

A. The first step is for professional learning communities to unpack the NJ Learning Standards through guided conversations using a common language. Teams of educators from across the state have worked with the NJDOE Office of Standards and Assessment staff to unpack the ELA and math standards into clear specific learning goals and place them into suggested units of study. These Curriculum Units are now available on the NJDOE website for all who are interested in using them for this process.

Q. Who uses the Connected Action Roadmap?

A. Teams of school leaders working together in professional learning communities. Without CAR, PLCs have a tendency to get off track and lack purpose. The CAR framework helps to focus the work of PLCs on teacher practice and student learning.

Q. Does the Connected Action Roadmap promote teamwork?

A. Absolutely. The Connected Action Roadmap is intended for teams of educational leaders to work together collaboratively. We have learned that a punitive focus on accountability without support has had negative consequences. A collaborative approach like the Connected Action Roadmap has proven to be much more effective.

Q. What is the role of the New Jersey Department of Education in the Connected Action Roadmap?

A. The NJDOE has identified the Connected Action Roadmap as its vision for teaching and learning in New Jersey schools. The department is partnering with the major education organizations to promote CAR, not as a mandate, but as a best practice, strategic and collaborative approach to developing a standards-based curriculum that fosters equitable outcomes for students. Educators from across the state are working with the Office of Standards and Assessment staff to unpack the ELA and math standards into clear specific learning goals, which will be placed into suggested units of study and made available to all educators. Together, the NJDOE and the education organizations have signed on to the Statement of Vision and Commitment to the Connected Action Roadmap: A Systems Approach to Strengthening Teaching, Leading, and Learning.